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16 November 2021

Professor Galt explores the 'presence of the pontianak' in new book

The Film Studies Professor publishes Alluring Monsters: the Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization, and examines the presence of the pontianak in postcolonial Southeast Asian cultures.

Image of the book cover with a coloured figure on a tree in the top half and a woman in the shrubs on the bottom half in black and white
Cover of Professor Galt's book, Alluring Monsters: the Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization

Professor of Film Studies, Rosalind Galt has published a book on the pontianak, a female vampire ghost who is as loved and feared in Southeast Asia as Dracula is in the West. The pontianak starred in a hugely popular series of films in 1950s and 60s Singapore, and she can be seen today across film, television, online media, art and literature.

In Alluring Monsters: the Pontianak and Cinemas of Decolonization, Galt explores how and why the pontianak found new life in postcolonial Southeast Asian cultures.

In 2019, Galt was awarded a Leverhulme Research Fellowship and a Lee Kong Chian NUS-Stanford Fellowship on Contemporary Southeast Asia. These fellowships, along with support from King’s, enabled her to follow the trail of the pontianak in Malaysia and Singapore, where she investigated the history of colonial film production, as well as the pre-colonial animist beliefs of the region.

Alluring Monsters argues that the pontianak can tell us about intersecting issues of decolonisation: femininity and modernity; globalisation and indigeneity; racial identities and nation; Islam and animism; and heritage and environmental destruction. The pontianak is a disruptive figure, open to feminist and queer interpretation, as well as resisting conservative perspectives on religion, race, and nationalism. From horror films to art installations, the pontianak sheds light on how postcolonial identities are developed and contested. 

The first of its kind and a book like no other, Alluring Monsters brings Southeast Asian cinema and postcoloniality into productive tension through the much-beloved yet much-feared figure of the pontianak. Galt has created thrilling new paths for thinking about postcolonial cinema, animism, feminism, queer/trans subjectivities, and decolonial politics.

Alicia Izharrudin, author of Gender and Islam in Indonesian Cinema

Alluring Monsters is indispensable reading for those interested in how media, folklore, and anticolonial feminism might be explored together

Professor Bliss Cua Lim (University of California, Irvine)

An important new model for imagining world cinema.

Professor Adam Lowenstein (University of Pittsburgh)

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Rosalind Galt

Professor of Film Studies

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